ProspectsASEAN spoke to Professor Michael Driscoll, Vice Chancellor and President of Taylor’s University, to discuss his vision of revolutionising the university education framework and taking Taylor’s University into the top 100 Asia ranks. Professor Michael also explains how he envisions the University of the Future and what needs to be done to better prepare graduates for the industry.
Having worked with talents and education ministries in the UK and France, he talked about why the Malaysian Government needs to strengthen the education infrastructure to better prepare young talents for the future of work. Finally, he shares with us 3 essential skills that graduates should focus on building to remain competitive and enhance their employability.
1. As Vice Chancellor and President of Taylor’s University, what has been your greatest achievement since you assumed the position and what is your primary goal for 2018?
My main aim for this year is to be further ahead than last year. We have set a plan in the year ahead to take Taylor’s University to become the top 100 in Asia, and we’re making great progress with that.
Apart from having a vision and developing a plan for the future, I have to ensure we have an effective team and people who are capable and know how to advance that plan. The most important aspect of my role is to put together a great team – which can be achieved by identifying and filling the skill gaps to ensure we have everyone needed.
It’s basically like putting together a good football team, you wouldn’t want everyone to be strikers and defenders. It’s also important to have capable midfielders and players with different skillsets that complement each other. Ultimately, it is about having the right balance of talents working together that makes an organisation great.
If I were to lay claim to any achievement that I’ve contributed to Taylor’s University, it’s helping to strengthen the team. Taylor’s has always had a great team, but the important thing is to constantly identifying what the team requires or lacks as we progress into the future.
2. How do you envision the University of the Future? And what steps are currently being taken by Taylor’s University to adapt to the rapidly changing work environment and produce future-ready graduates?
In the recent years, there has been some amazing technological development taking place around the world. We don’t know exactly what to expect in the future, but we can anticipate and imagine. The only thing certain is that technology will continue to be a huge part of everyone’s life in every way – in terms of recreation and work.
Another thing driven by technology that is taking place is Global Mobility. If we look at major cities like Kuala Lumpur, which has a highly multi-cultural community, we can observe many foreigners coming here to work as well as Malaysians going overseas for their education and work. It is evident that we have a much more fluid and mobile population globally, particularly among the young professionals.
Therefore, I believe that the major role of universities today is to prepare people for that mobile and technologically-driven world, which requires graduates to have a different set of skills and be comfortable working in diverse teams. Today, we live and work in a world where things move with immense pace.
When I was growing up, most people joined and stayed with a company for their entire career. That is no longer the case. Young people who are entering the workforce today have a wide range of choices, so it is quite unlikely that they will have a single career path. We also have to start preparing our graduates to get used to the speed of change and encourage them to be a part of driving change and social inclusion. That’s where I believe Taylor’s University will play a huge role in shaping the talent landscape.
3. In March 2018, the new Taylor’s Curriculum Framework (TCF) was implemented – an innovative concept that aims to break the conventional, rigid curriculum structure and offer students greater flexibility to co-curate their degree. Can you share with us how will the TCF better prepare graduates when they enter the workforce?
The Taylor’s Curriculum Framework (TCF) enables students to have an element of designing their own course, rather than simply taking what’s off the shelf. They will have more choice and are able to combine their preferred subjects in a way that they never could. For example, if you’re an engineering student, it is now possible to combine your course with other highly relevant subjects that will be useful to your career path, such as business management, finance, or even accounting. In the past, most programs and faculties typically operate in isolation, where the design of the course was developed to produce the best single degree without regard of how the work environment plays out in the industry.
In relation, what the TCF does is to also eliminate barriers and make it easier for the different faculties to collaborate and enable students to learn from across different schools. Additionally, we have aligned our academic calendar with the international calendars to make it easier for our students to go abroad for student exchange programs with our international partner universities. Hopefully, we will start to see a bigger increase in the mobility of Taylor’s students.
Finally, we have mainstreamed and incorporated life skills into our university programs. With a team of skilled trainers, we will equip the students with all the essential life skills and produce well-rounded graduates that meet the needs of the employers and have more confidence in their communication and leadership capabilities.
4. Given that you have worked with talents from across the globe, how different are the youth in other parts of the world compared to that in this (ASEAN) region? And what can be done for us to improve and remain competitive on a global level?
To be frank, I don’t see much difference. Most young talents I encounter today are just as curious and ambitious in most parts of the globe.
I don’t see any form of deficit in the Malaysian talents compared to those in other parts of the world. In fact, I observed an enormous level of creativity and eagerness within the graduates with a desire to pursue entrepreneurship and start their own businesses. Therefore, I don’t think there is anything for Malaysians to be worried about in terms of being globally competitive.
The important thing is for the Malaysian Government to put in place a more solid education infrastructure to harness more curiosity amongst the youth and enable more children to complete their higher education. One thing we know is that there will be less and less low skilled jobs as we progress into the future.
5. The coming of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will disrupt many industries and force us to work in new ways. On top of academic achievements, what skills or qualities should young talents develop in order to enhance their employability and remain competitive?
I think young talents today should be well aware and focus on developing these 3 essential skills before they enter the workforce to enhance their employability and remain relevant:
- Build Good Communication Skills: There are very few opportunities today for professionals to work in isolation, so it is essential that they learn how to articulate their ideas to their team. A lot of what happens at work will require you to collaborate and persuade others to help you with designated tasks. Regardless of your seniority level, you have to be understanding and learn to get along well with your colleagues and clients.
- Develop Your Social Skills: It is important to recognise that social skills are not necessarily something you naturally have, in which case you will have to develop it consciously and proactively. Being able to build your professional network and work well with people can go a long way in the corporate world, regardless of your industry.
- Use of Technology: Graduates today will be going into a working world where the use of technology and smartphones is no longer optional. Therefore, it is imperative for working professionals at all ages to have a basic level of technology literacy to keep up with the everchanging work environment today.